How many Americans have followed the brouhaha in France over the Education Minister's recent proposals to change the curriculum? I would think not many. But it is instructive what that young, pretty, not very experienced Najat Vallaud-Belkacem has proposed, and the reaction — overwhelming and furious — that her plans received. The Minister of Education in France sets the curriculum down to the set books that each child will read, and decides, too, what courses will be offered, and in what schools. Everything is top down, and there is very little difference in the courses offered from school to school.
Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, who by parentage is half-Muslim, decided that it was time to change the curriculum. Out would be Latin, and Greek, and even German, though one would have thought that as a commercial language, the teaching of German would have been expanded, not eliminated. Of course those immediately effected were furious. It was pointed out that Latin and Greek represented not just classical antiquity, but European civilization, that without keeping up these two languages, the general tenor of French culture would suffer, and even the study of French would suffer, because Latin and Greek had contributed directly to the language, and the possibility of acquiring either of them was important to the country's understanding of itself and its past.